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Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, talked on Thursday about reaching agreement on must-pass government funding legislation and on another coronavirus relief package, amid pressure from rank and file members for a bipartisan compromise.
A spokesman for Ms. Pelosi, Drew Hammill, said the conversation early Thursday afternoon focused on “their shared commitment to completing an omnibus and Covid relief as soon as possible.”
Mr. McConnell has been largely removed from discussions with Ms. Pelosi over another stimulus bill since the two chambers enacted a sweeping $2.2 trillion stimulus law in March. Instead, as he has worked to wrangle Republican support behind a series of targeted bills, Trump administration officials have led discussions with Ms. Pelosi over a possible deal.
The phone call between the two congressional leaders came after Mr. McConnell left the door open to reaching a deal on a new round of stimulus to address the pandemic, but stopped short of endorsing a $908 billion compromise plan Democrats embraced on Wednesday, saying it did not represent a genuine concession.
Mr. McConnell said it had been “heartening to see a few hopeful signs” this week in stimulus relief negotiations.
“Compromise is within reach,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor. “We know where we agree. We can do this. Let me say it again: We can do this, and we need to do this. So let’s be about actually making a law.”
But Mr. McConnell appeared to be referring to a much smaller stimulus proposal he began circulating earlier this week that he said would be able to secure President Trump’s signature, not the compromise measure being developed by a group of moderate senators in both parties.
Mr. McConnell admonished lawmakers to focus on policy provisions where there was substantial agreement, signaling that he would not be quick to move off his targeted proposal.
Mr. Trump, asked Thursday whether he agreed with Mr. McConnell that pandemic relief was “in sight” and whether he would support “this bill,” answered affirmatively. While it was initially unclear which bill Mr. Trump was willing to sign, the White House later clarified that it was the smaller Republican bill, which Mr. McConnell is backing.
“I will, and I think we are getting very close,” Mr. Trump told reporters.
Later on Thursday, more Republican senators signaled openness to embracing the $908 billion framework that Democratic leaders had endorsed as a baseline for restarting negotiations.
“I’ve never been more hopeful that we’ll get a bill,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said, who told reporters that he supports the framework and discussed it with Mr. Trump at the White House on Thursday. “I will support what Senator McConnell wants to propose, but it doesn’t have any Democratic support. I’m tired of doing show votes here.”
Mr. McConnell’s plan is a nonstarter for Democrats, given that it would not provide funding for state and local governments or a revival of lapsed federal unemployment payments and would include a sweeping liability shield they have long resisted.
Democrats, who initially unveiled a $3.4 trillion proposal in May but later scaled back their proposal by about $1 trillion, argued that Mr. McConnell must drop his demand for a narrow package and consider the compromise plan centrists in both parties have proposed.
The bipartisan framework would restore lapsed federal jobless benefits, providing $300 a week for 18 weeks; would include $288 billion for struggling small businesses, restaurants and theaters and $160 billion for fiscally strapped cities and states; and would create a temporary liability shield for businesses operating amid the pandemic.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Trump campaign’s lawsuit that aimed to invalidate more than 200,000 votes cast in two of the state’s Democratic bastions, closing off yet another legal avenue by which the outgoing president has tried to overturn the results of the general election.
The conservative court’s 4-to-3 vote to decline to take the case puts a stop to one part of a multipronged attempt by President Trump and his supporters to upend the legality of Wisconsin’s entire system of absentee voting, which the Trump campaign had sought to cast as violating state law.
The court’s majority of three liberal justices and one conservative justice wrote that the Wisconsin Supreme Court was not the proper venue for the Trump campaign’s lawsuit and suggested it refile in a lower state court.
The Trump campaign’s Wisconsin lawyer, James Troupis, said he would refile the suit in county-level circuit courts. “We fully expect to be back in front of the Supreme Court very soon,” he said.
But Mr. Troupis and the Trump campaign are running short on time for any legal action to change the reality of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s 20,000-vote victory in Wisconsin. The deadline to exhaust legal challenges to state certifications is Tuesday and the Electoral College is set to meet to formally vote to make Mr. Biden the next president on Dec. 14.
The Trump campaign late Wednesday filed a similar lawsuit in federal court in Milwaukee seeking to undo the result of the election entirely and have Wisconsin’s 10 Electoral College votes be determined by its Republican-controlled state legislature. Two other suits — one in the federal courts and another pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court — are also seeking to challenge the state’s election.
Unlike their claims of electoral malfeasance elsewhere, the Trump campaign and its Republican allies in the state have not argued the presidential election in Wisconsin was marred by fraud.
“I’ve yet to see a credible claim of fraudulent activity during this election,” Dean Knudson, a Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said during the body’s meeting on Tuesday. “The Trump campaign has not made any claims of fraud in this election. These are disputes in matters of law.”
Mr. Troupis, has for the last two weeks argued that the acceptance of in-person absentee ballots by municipal clerks before Election Day violated state law — even though local elections officials were doing so at the direction of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, a bipartisan body that oversees the state’s elections.
The Trump lawsuit also argued that municipal clerks should not have been allowed to complete address forms for witnesses to absentee ballots, which the elections commission gave them permission to do. State law requires absentee voters to have witnesses sign their ballot envelopes. It also asked the court to invalidate ballots that were collected by the Madison municipal clerk at October gatherings in city parks, though those events were also blessed by the elections commission.
The Trump campaign only challenged ballots in Milwaukee County and Dane County, which includes Madison, the state capital and home of the flagship University of Wisconsin campus. The two counties are the largest and most Democratic in the state.
Few senior Wisconsin Republicans officials believed the Trump campaign’s arguments would lead to the result of the election being overturned and the state’s 10 electoral votes going to Mr. Trump instead of Mr. Biden.
“The problem for the courts is — even if they accept the argument of the president’s lawyers — what is the remedy?” former Gov. Scott Walker, a Trump loyalist, wrote Tuesday night on his Facebook page.
Wisconsin law, as Mr. Walker noted, stipulates that if municipalities determine after the election that an absentee voter should not have cast a ballot, the elections clerk is to pick a ballot at random and discard it, since there is no way at that point to connect a ballot to the voter who cast it.
The Trump campaign’s lawsuit, if it had been successful, would not necessarily have invalidated ballots cast through the manner it claims were illegal. It simply would have reduced the number of votes from the state’s two most Democratic counties without addressing ballots cast in an identical manner in the state’s other 70 counties.
Alan Feuer contributed reporting.
Tina Flournoy, a top aide to former President Bill Clinton with three decades of political, governmental and union experience, will serve as chief of staff to Vice President Kamala Harris, transition officials announced on Thursday, a move that underscores the influence of veteran officials with deep ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Ms. Harris has also tapped Nancy McEldowney, a former United States ambassador to Bulgaria who served as a National Security Council aide under Mr. Clinton in the 1990s, as her national security adviser.
And Rohini Kosoglu, who served as chief of staff to Ms. Harris in the Senate and played a central role on her presidential campaign, will be the vice president’s domestic policy adviser. Ms. Kosoglu is one of the few people who worked for Ms. Harris before she was chosen as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate to be given a top job in the new administration.
Earlier this week, Ms. Harris appointed Symone Sanders and Ashley Etienne, two Black women, to head her communications team. Thursday’s selection of Ms. Flournoy, who is of Jamaican and Indian descent, and Ms. Kosoglu, who is of South Asian descent, filled out a roster of top aides who are almost all women of color, in keeping with the campaign’s pledge to make the Biden White House the most diverse and representative in history.
Some Black Democrats are pressing Mr. Biden to do more when it comes to hiring in the West Wing and in cabinet positions. “From all I hear, Black people have been given fair consideration,” Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and a close Biden ally, told The Hill last week. “I want to see where the process leads to, what it produces. But so far it’s not good.”
Ms. Flournoy is a well-known Democratic operative who is close to Minyon Moore, the veteran Clinton aide whom Ms. Harris has tapped to help guide her transition planning.
She has deep roots in organized labor, having served as a top official at the American Federation of Teachers before joining the former president’s staff in 2013.
Her career in government dates back to the early 1990s, when she served as general counsel for the 1992 Democratic convention, as a Democratic National Committee official, and as an aide in the White House personnel office during the Clinton administration.
Ms. Kosoglu, who helped hammer out the details of the Affordable Care Act as a Senate Democratic staffer a decade ago, is expected to serve as a bridge to the upper chamber. Before joining Ms. Harris’s staff in the Senate, she served as a policy adviser to Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, and as a legislative aide to Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan.
House Democrats, stung by last month’s election losses and facing daunting 2022 midterms, chose Representative Sean Patrick Maloney of New York on Thursday as chairman of their campaign arm, selecting him to lead the fight to maintain their narrow majority.
Mr. Maloney, a moderate from the Hudson Valley, had promised to immediately reboot the group, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, amid an outpouring of complaints from rank-and-file lawmakers distraught over the loss of as many as a dozen seats last month. In campaigning for the role, he leaned heavily on his own success winning a district that voted for President Trump in 2016, arguing that he was best positioned to help protect fellow swing district Democrats who will make or break the majority in two years.
But in a recent interview, Mr. Maloney suggested he would not rush to conclusions about what went wrong last month before the final handful of outstanding races were called and Democrats could conduct a deeper study of the outcome.
“The intelligent answer to that question is I don’t really know yet what happened and neither does anyone else, but I know how to find out,” said Mr. Maloney. “If you’re not God, you should bring data.”
He beat out Representative Tony Cárdenas of California, 119 to 107, in a secret-ballot vote that took place virtually because of the raging coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Cárdenas, the son of Mexican immigrants who has led the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm, centered his bid around wining back Latino voters in key swing states that voted Republican this year.
For Mr. Maloney, who has been eager to increase his stature in Washington or New York, the victory catapults him into the upper tier of House leadership at a time when a younger generation of Democrats is jockeying for positions guiding the party after Speaker Nancy Pelosi retires, as soon as 2022. Mr. Maloney, 54, will be the highest-ranking openly gay member of House leadership.
The task is a steep one. Rarely in recent history has the president’s party been able to maintain control of the House in the midterm elections of his first term. In this case, Democrats will also be fighting for re-election in 2022 in newly drawn districts based on the 2020 census that are likely to only further tilt the playing field toward Republicans.
The job could be even more complicated this time given the looming changes atop House leadership. Ms. Pelosi has led Democrats in the chamber for nearly two decades, tightly controlling the party’s legislative and campaign strategies and raising huge amounts of money for candidates — attributes her successors will have a difficult time replicating.
House Republicans already re-elected their campaign chairman, Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, to lead the charge to retake the majority. His searing campaign attack strategy this year, portraying vulnerable Democrats as socialist sympathizers who want to defund police forces, clearly rattled Democrats and has pleased the rank and file in his own party.
ATLANTA — Georgia, perhaps more than any other state in the nation, continues to be haunted by a sort of zombie campaign to produce a Trump victory, one month after Election Day.
Even though Gov. Brian Kemp has already certified President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the state, his fellow Republicans plan to hold a pair of State Senate committee hearings Thursday that are likely to dig into the question of whether the state’s election was, as President Trump falsely puts it, “rigged.”
Mr. Trump will soon be making his case in person. The president, who has berated Mr. Kemp and other local Republicans for not overturning Mr. Biden’s victory, will hold a rally on behalf of the state’s incumbent Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, in Valdosta on Saturday ahead of a double January runoff that will determine the balance of power in the upper chamber.
On Thursday, Democrats announced that former President Barack Obama would host a virtual rally on Friday for the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue’s Democratic challengers. Mr. Obama will be joined by Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia legislator and candidate for governor who has championed voting rights in the state.
Many of the state’s Republicans continue to expend significant effort — and contort themselves into political pretzels — to navigate the president’s outrage over the fact that he lost the state, in the hope of demonstrating to his supporters that they are doing all they can to root out any trace of fraud to back Mr. Trump’s baseless claims.
For some Republicans, the most urgent concern is that the president’s ongoing effort to undermine faith in the election process will depress conservative turnout in the all-important Jan. 5 runoff races for the seats.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who is up for re-election in 2022, is one of a number of top Georgia Republicans who are bending their actions to two diverging imperatives: defending the integrity of their state’s election while trying to survive the bizarre and evolving political weather systems generated by the mercurial Mr. Trump.
The president may spout conspiracy theories and acrimony — he has publicly attacked Mr. Raffensperger and Mr. Kemp for not acceding to his wishes — but he is also the most popular figure in the Republican Party.
Mr. Raffensperger, 65, most likely concerned about his future in politics, has tried to survive Mr. Trump’s onslaught with a mix of pushing back and staying in line.
On Wednesday, even as Mr. Raffensperger declared that Mr. Trump had lost, he made it clear that he was still a Trump man at heart: “We wish that our guy would have won the election,” he said, “but it doesn’t look like our guy has won the election.”
Mr. Kemp, who is also up for re-election in 2022, has followed a similar strategy. On Monday, in a tweet, Mr. Trump called Mr. Kemp “hapless” and urged him to intervene in the election. That same day, Mr. Kemp’s campaign sent out an email declaring that Georgia Republicans “must unite as a Party to advance President Trump’s bold, conservative agenda.”
Senator David Perdue, the Georgia Republican facing a runoff election that could determine the control of the Senate, made 2,596 stock trades in one term in office, including, at times, 20 or more transactions in a single day.
The number of trades far outpaced those made by his Senate colleagues, a Times analysis found. And the timing of some of them have raised questions about conflicts of interest, drawing attention to the senator’s investment portfolio just a few weeks before a highly consequential runoff election.
The Justice Department had investigated the senator for possible insider trading in his sale of more than $1 million worth of stock in a financial-analysis firm, Cardlytics. Ultimately, prosecutors declined to bring charges.
The Times analyzed data compiled by Senate Stock Watcher, a nonpartisan website that aggregates publicly available information on lawmakers’ trading. Mr. Perdue’s transactions -mostly in stocks but also in bonds and funds — accounted for nearly a third of all senators’ trades reported in the past six years.
The data also shows the breadth of trades Mr. Perdue made in companies that stood to benefit from policy and spending matters that came not just before the Senate as a whole, but before the committees and subcommittees on which he served.
As a member of the Senate’s cybersecurity subcommittee, Mr. Perdue cited a frightening report about hackers overseas that pose a threat to U.S. computer networks. The report was done by a California-based company called FireEye, a federal contractor with stock Mr. Perdue bought and sold 61 times since 2016. At one point he owned as much as $250,000 worth of shares in the company.
In his urgent demand on Monday that President Trump condemn his angry supporters who are threatening workers and officials overseeing the 2020 vote, a Georgia elections official focused on an animated image of a hanging noose that had been sent to a young voting-machine technician.
“It’s just wrong,” the official, Gabriel Sterling, a Republican, said at a news conference. “I can’t begin to explain the level of anger I have over this.”
But the technician in Georgia is not alone. Far from it.
Across the nation, election officials and their staff have been bombarded this month with emails, telephone calls and letters brimming with menace and threats of violence, the result of their service in a presidential election in which the defeated candidate’s most ardent followers have refused to accept the results.
The threats are the poisonous fallout of an election in which Mr. Trump has stoked baseless claims of election fraud on a daily basis, his lawyers have peddled conspiracy theories and supporters have called for extralegal actions with the goal of keeping Mr. Trump in power.
Mr. Trump on Thursday dismissed Attorney General William P. Barr’s recent determination that no widespread fraud existed in the election, calling Mr. Barr’s failure to corroborate his claims “a disappointment, to be honest.”
Asked if he still had confidence in Mr. Barr, Mr. Trump replied, “ask me that in a number of weeks from now” — even though he has less than two months left in office.
The noose may be approaching meme status among the recipients of the threats and abuse. Amber McReynolds, the head of the National Vote at Home Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes voting by mail, said she had experienced a spike in online threats since Election Day, when Mr. Trump ratcheted up false claims that fraudulent mail votes had cost him the election. One serial harasser on Twitter, she said, has been especially venomous.
“He sent me a picture of a noose and said ‘You’re a traitor to the American people,’” she said. “All because I run a nonprofit that tries to make voting by mail easier and more secure.”
Officials in battleground states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and Arizona also have been threatened, as well as election officers in less contested states like Virginia and Kentucky, according to published reports and interviews with some of the targets.
In Philadelphia, an aide to a Republican city commissioner was bombarded with abuse shortly after the Nov. 3 vote after a Trump supporter, the former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, singled him out at a broadcast news conference. Arizona’s Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, said last month that she and her family received “utterly abhorrent” death threats after former Vice President Joseph R. Biden won the state’s electoral votes.
And in Phoenix, Adrian Fontes, who supervises elections across Maricopa County, said he and his staff had been threatened in “plenty of instances” in recent weeks. “It’s just not right,” said Mr. Fontes, a Democrat. “And frankly, it’s un-American.”
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has officially selected Brian Deese, who played a leading role in bailing out the automotive industry and negotiating the Paris climate agreement under President Barack Obama, to head the National Economic Council, his transition team said Thursday.
The appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation, highlights Mr. Biden’s plans to use economic policy initiatives to drive climate policy. It also defies pre-emptive criticism from some environmental groups, who have targeted Mr. Deese for his work in recent years as the sustainability director for asset-management giant BlackRock.
Mr. Deese joins a slate of Biden appointees to top economic positions, announced earlier this week, that includes the nomination of Janet L. Yellen as Treasury secretary, Neera Tanden to be director of the Office of Management and Budget and Cecilia Rouse to head the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Mr. Deese said in written statement that his immediate focus “will be on stemming this crisis, getting people back to work, and fighting to deliver the support American families desperately need — including rental and mortgage assistance, child care and paid leave, and small business relief.”
He also said that as the economy recovers, Mr. Biden’s economic team would work to fulfill the president-elect’s broader agenda for rebuilding infrastructure and supporting job creation and wage growth, “from restoring American industrial and manufacturing strength to embedding climate solutions in an ambitious jobs strategy.”
Mr. Deese joined the Obama administration as a special assistant to the president based in the National Economic Council, where he helped craft the bailout of large American automakers. In 2015, he became a senior adviser to Mr. Obama on climate change and energy, helping drive sweeping regulations cutting emissions from the electricity sector and from vehicle tailpipes as the United States prepared to join the Paris agreement on global warming.
But Mr. Deese’s post-Obama administration role as global head of sustainable investing at the BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has drawn criticism from many environmental activists on the left, who say the company has not gone far enough to abandon fossil fuels.
With President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. rolling out a steady list of picks for top jobs and Congress working to pass a compromise stimulus plan, much of Washington appears to be moving on from the election theatrics that unfolded over much of last month.
Even President Trump, while still challenging the results through the narrowing channels that remain, also appears to at least be considering next moves.
He made clear that he remained deeply committed to fighting the election outcome, releasing a 46-minute videotaped screed on Wednesday in which he spoke angrily and complained of a “rigged” vote. It came the day after his own attorney general, William P. Barr, said that despite inquiries from the Justice Department and the F.B.I., “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
Still, Mr. Trump has been signaling that he may set his sights on becoming only the second president in American history to win another term after being defeated. He has also discussed steps he might take to insulate himself before the 2024 presidential election, such as pre-emptively pardoning members of his family before leaving office.
How serious he is remains to be seen. Many allies believe the president’s talk of another run in 2024, when he will be 78 years old, is more about maintaining relevance, enabling him to raise funds, soothe his wounded pride and try to shed the label of loser.
But even if it is only for show, Mr. Trump’s talk of a 2024 campaign has already frozen the Republican field and could delay the emergence of a new generation of leaders while keeping the party tethered to a politically polarizing figure for months or years.
Jenna Ellis broke into the legal profession in 2012 as a deputy district attorney in Weld County, Colo., a largely rural area that would soon make headlines for a failed attempt to secede from the rest of the state because some residents resented the growing dominance of more liberal communities to the south like Denver. Ms. Ellis prosecuted crimes like theft and assault, felonies of a different magnitude from the claims of sweeping fraud and criminal conspiracy she makes today as a top lawyer to President Trump.
It wasn’t long before she parlayed her law degree and experience as a prosecutor into jobs that thrust her beyond her corner of the state: She took a position with James Dobson, the evangelical heavyweight, joined the faculty at Colorado Christian University and started appearing on Denver radio as a legal commentator.
By late 2018, regular viewers of cable news would come to know Ms. Ellis as a “constitutional law attorney” — her preferred title — who aggressively came to Mr. Trump’s defense as he faced investigation and impeachment.
But a review of her professional history, as well as interviews with more than a half-dozen lawyers who have worked with her, show that Ms. Ellis, 36, is not the seasoned constitutional law expert she plays on TV.
In many ways, that makes her ideal for the role she has now fashioned for herself: She is a star player in the president’s theater of grievance and denial whose lack of relevant experience with the legal questions at hand has had no apparent bearing on her ability to present herself as someone of great authority.
Since she graduated law school in 2011, nothing in her record in the courtroom — limited mostly to appearances in state court as a prosecutor or as counsel for clients charged with assault, prostitution, theft and domestic abuse — shows any time spent litigating election law cases.
She holds herself out as an expert on the Constitution based on her self-published book and her teaching of pre-law classes to undergraduates. She has never appeared in federal district or circuit court, where most constitutional matters are considered, according to national databases of federal cases, and does not appear to have played a major role in any cases beyond her criminal and civil work in Colorado.
On paper, the Trump campaign calls her a senior legal adviser. She has recently appeared alongside Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Trump lawyers — a group Ms. Ellis described as an “elite strike force team” — at public hearings where she amplified the president’s false claims of widespread voter fraud.
In a written statement responding to questions about her record, Ms. Ellis described herself as “a highly experienced and highly qualified attorney and expert in my field.” Any assertions to the contrary “cast me in a false light,” she said. The Trump campaign provided the name of one federal case in which it said Ms. Ellis had participated, in 2012, when she was a year out of law school. But her name is not among the lawyers listed in the decision, and the case was not heard in a regular federal court, but rather in an administrative tribunal.